By: Cory William Berlekamp
Elizabeth Smart, a survivor of kidnapping and advocate for victims, spoke at the University of Findlay on Friday, Oct. 13. Smart shared both her story provided some insight on what life is like before and after trauma.
“I think it is so important to speak out, to share my story to hopefully provide some education especially for young students with this being their first time away from school,” Smart said.
Smart spoke in the Multipurpose Room at the Alumni Memorial Union in which there was an attendence of over 300 people. Her book, “My Story,” was handed out at the door to the first 200.
After sharing her experiences, she finished the talk by answering questions from the audience. Smart went into detail about sexual assault and how it can happen to anyone and how to overcome it.
“It doesn’t matter if you know someone and it doesn’t change what happens, rape is rape,” Smart said. “So often we have so little control over what happens to us but we do have 100% control over how we react.”
In 2002, Smart was kidnapped from her home at the age of 14. She endured sexual assault and physical trauma from her captors until she was rescued nine months later. Now, she is a victim’s advocate and author through sharing her story to educate people and help those who have dealt with rape, abuse and assault.
“I want everyone to walk away feeling like there is hope,” Smart said, “and no matter what happens to them, they’ll be able to keep on going and move forward and not give up.”
The Elizabeth Smart talk was presented by Ryan Fausnaugh, the executive director of the Center for Safe and Healthy Children located on 1900 Chapel Dr. in Findlay. The advocacy center is a place where children can go in the event of abuse or sexual assault. At their site, forensic interviews, police, child services and doctors visits can all take place to save the child from further pain.
“We are a children’s advocacy center, so the goal is to not allow that child to experience additional trauma by centralizing all services they are going to need,” said Fausnaugh.
Although the Center for Safe and Healthy Children is not affiliated with the University of Findlay, David Emsweller, the vice president of student affairs, is on the board of directors for the Advocacy Center.
“Dave is our nice link between the two [locations],” Fausnaugh said. “And with that, our goal is that we need to educate people on abuse and in this county in particular it’s hard to talk about sometimes. The University is a great vehicle for that.”
Although the Center only treats children up to the age of 18, they are partner with Open Arms Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services located at 401 W Sandusky St. in Findlay.
“A lot of times people think domestic violence just happens to women,” Fausnaugh said. “Open Arms is great for adults, they will provide rape advocacy and domestic violence advocacy for men and women.”
Open Arms services range from emergency shelter and rape crisis to the Violence Recovery Project, an educational program designed to help offenders understand and change abusive behaviors.
Both Fausnaugh and Smart urge anyone who is a victim of assault to find a safe place or an advocacy group to help them through their trauma. Two women talked to Smart about being raped on college campuses and since then she always accepts the invitation to speak at schools.
“For years neither of them knew what happened to them was rape, they thought that somehow it was their fault,” Smart said. “It could happen to anyone, man or woman, so whenever I have the opportunity to speak at a university I take it.”